Ancient Greek Nomos and Modern Legal Theory: A Reappraisal

Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy 2021 (Forthcoming)

13 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2021 Last revised: 24 Nov 2021

See all articles by Lukas van den Berge

Lukas van den Berge

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law; Utrecht University

Date Written: August 23, 2021


Recently, two books have appeared that venture to re-investigate modern legal theory's ancient Greek underpinnings. In both books, the notion of nomos plays a central role. Firstly, Thanos Zartaloudis has published a remarkable study in which he delves into the manifold meanings of that ancient Greek word. Zartaloudis offers us an extraordinarily rich analysis of the polyvalent forms and uses of nomos from the age of Homer up to the days of Socrates – the classical period in which nomos would finally come to acquire its sense of an enacted legal norm (‘law’) or binding social convention (‘custom’). Secondly, nomos is of central importance in Johan van der Walt’s recent book on the intertwined modern notions of liberal democracy and the rule of law – referred to by Van der Walt as the concept of liberal democratic law. For Van der Walt, the analysis of ancient Greek nomos and its long and tortuous reception history in western thought is crucial for a proper understanding of what the modern concept of liberal democratic law entails and how it could be saved for the future.

Keywords: nomos, rule of law, liberal democracy, Carl Schmitt, Homer, Pindar, Thucydides, Sophocles

Suggested Citation

van den Berge, Lukas and van den Berge, Lukas, Ancient Greek Nomos and Modern Legal Theory: A Reappraisal (August 23, 2021). Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy 2021 (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: or

Lukas Van den Berge (Contact Author)

Utrecht University ( email )

Vredenburg 138
Utrecht, 3511 BG

Utrecht University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Janskerkhof 3
Utrecht, 3512 BK

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